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Kevin Leavitt 02-26-2007 01:34 PM

Re: Baseline skillset
One of my instructors, a pro MMA guy who has opened my eyes up to totally new ways of training let me in on a secret.

He said, do privates.

I said, wow they are expensive.

He said, okay spend 100 on a seminar for 2 days, or find a partner and spend 200 on a couple of hours of quality training and split the'll be better off.

I have done this, and found it to be true for the most part.

Of course, I still do the occassional seminar when I have to.

Smaller is better for sure.

ChrisMoses 02-26-2007 01:46 PM

Re: Baseline skillset

Kevin Leavitt wrote: (Post 169874)
One of my instructors, a pro MMA guy who has opened my eyes up to totally new ways of training let me in on a secret.

He said, do privates.

I said, wow they are expensive.

Bingo, martial arts are best taught in SMALL groups. The two places I train now are less than 12 members total, frequently less than 8 people in class at a time. You cannot get lost in the crowd, almost every class is effectively a private lesson, particularly since most of us are good enough at knowing what should be going on that we can offer very high quality feedback, you know like, "Dude, that REALLY sucked..." ;)

As much as I miss the juice of a big dojo and community, I do not think it works well for transmitting budo.

DH 02-26-2007 01:53 PM

Re: Baseline skillset

Kevin Leavitt wrote: (Post 169874)
One of my instructors, a pro MMA guy who has opened my eyes up to totally new ways of training let me in on a secret.
He said, "Do privates."

Oh my gosh Kevin. A response to that is a small book. On many levels. Both in Traditional arts as well as MMA. If we read everything we can find, from many arts, and read the bios of the masters?
Where, and how, did they train?
Everyone is so caught up with "being" a martial artist-they forgot how.
I recenlty went to a few CMA seminars to see how they teach? It's the same crap.
Its all in the one-on-one
And training? In very small groups with guys who can kick ass and have no vested interest in shining you on whatsoever. Then find some guys who don't know you-and play.

Kevin Leavitt 02-26-2007 01:56 PM

Re: Baseline skillset
Yea...but there is a balance. Right now I only have about 4 guys I train with on a regular basis....not quite enough to have variation. We tend to get in bred. It is nice to be exposed to different people and perspectives...but small is better I think. Certainly not like having 100 people on the mat at the same time...I always feel a little ripped off when this is the case.

Kevin Leavitt 02-26-2007 01:58 PM

Re: Baseline skillset
Yea Dan, maybe, one day...I will finally get to one on one with the likes of you too! :)

Your taking the heat pretty good! :)

I'd like to clarify that again, I have no issue with what you are training even though it sometimes sounds like it.

Just a few things on perspective and realitive weight of it. Which I consider to be very important.

George S. Ledyard 02-26-2007 04:49 PM

Re: Baseline skillset

Christian Moses wrote: (Post 169875)
As much as I miss the juice of a big dojo and community, I do not think it works well for transmitting budo.

Unfortunately (or rather fortunately, as I would never even encountered Aikido without this expansion), Aikido has already expanded. It's a done deal.

So what can and should be done to make some sort of transmission available to the majority rather than an elite minority?

1) The senior teachers of the art have to abandon this idea of "steal the technique", this ridiculous notion that you are doing the practitioner some sort of disservice in explaining what he / she should be doing. I do not think that this is likely to happen at the topmost levels so it is the responsibility of the teachers from my own generation to do so.

2) Senior teachers must be open to outside input. There is no style of Aikido which is complete, no teacher who has the whole answer. As this thread has attempted to demonstrate, there are elements of our art which could best be investigated by looking to folks outside the art for inspiration. Then we need to look at what we do and develop better ways to incorporate these elements into mainline Aikido. Once again, the topmost teachers, with some very notable exceptions, are profoundly unlikely to do this so it is up to the second tier of 6th and 7th Dans to do this. Actually, everyone should be doing this. If the folks at the mid levels do this and the top folks don't, Aikido organization will completely destabilize as the juniors will actually recognize the inadequacies of their own teachers. So the top folks will have to get out there and develop themselves or find themselves marginalized despite the big numbers after their names.

3) Aikido should be organized according to sets of nested pyramids. The organization would be the basic pyramid, there being a number of these pyramids in a given country. Each organization would consist of a set of nested pyramids. This is true in a way right now but the next level down in most organizations is the dojo with its Chief Instructor(s). There need to be many more levels within the larger pyramid to accomplish what needs to be done which is to try to make a significant proportion of the training function along the lines noted by Chris, namely small groups with lots of immediate feedback. Mass training is the enemy of real transmission.

4) The Shihan level teachers within and organization should spend their time on instructor development. The large seminar with the "big guy" model does virtually nothing for the vast majority of Aikido practitioners. It may function to increase organizational cohesion and they may be inspirational on some level (although I could debate that; I think they often serve to make the ordinary student give up on ever "getting there") but for most folks at these seminars there is no benefit whatever. Most folks take no ukemi, the teacher will probably not even speak to the majority of the people there, and if the material is to be challenging to the seniors it will be pretty much incomprehensible to the juniors. If the subject matter is made basic enough to do the juniors some good, the seniors don't get anything new at all.

I propose that the Shihan level folks devote most of their training to small groups of similar level trainees. A former uchi deshi teacher might devote himself solely to what in music would be called "master classes". 90% of their time should be spent on small group training for groups of 5th and 6th Dans and separate groups of 3rd and 4th Dans. The Rokudans should be teaching seminars at the member dojos with a focus on developing mentoring relationships with the Chief Instructors and the senior students.

If we insist on continuing with the big Camp model, there should be training within these camps which are targeted at certain groups with specific goals in mind. Everyone does not need to go to every class. Training should be tailored and groups kept small.

5) There should be general agreement what issues are central to address each year. The Shihan and the Rokudans should meet and discuss what they see as the issues facing the membership in their training. If there were general agreement that the weapons work was falling behind, there would be steps taken to address that specific issue at the organizational level. For instance the teachers who travel around doing the seminars at the local level would focus on the issues. At the large events, there would be classes designed to correct the problems.

In this regard the strictly top down model will have to go. The folks who have the best handle on what is really happening out in the hinterlands are the teachers who do the seminars at the local dojo level. The most senior teachers should listen to the feedback from the instructors who are actually "out there". I know that this is a bit much to ask for... but perhaps we could look for a generation of seniors who can check their self importance and operate for the collective good rather than their own positioning.

Local seminars should have classes for yudansha only as well as the general membership classes. Dojo-cho should feel free to ask for training which focuses on their specific needs. They should not feel as if they have to settle for whatever the visiting instructor may feel is interesting but which may not address the specific concerns of the folks at that dojo.

Large events like the Camps should have classes each day devoted to "user generated content". In other words, the folks attending the event get to ask questions and look for instruction on areas which they find problematic. Dump the "shut up and train" model for these classes and let people express what they want to learn and what they feel their problems are.

The whole focus of the organization should be on transmission, period. The Shihan pass on what they know to the next tier down. They in turn pass it down to the tier below them. The need is for personal relationship and contact. If you take the group of seniors at the top and look at them collectively, they should know the names of every dojo head in the organization and who the senior folks are in the dojo. Every dojo has one or two seniors with whom they have this mentoring relationship. This should be a requirement of membership in the organization. There needs to be an active commitment on the part of the folks at the top that everyone gets the most out of their training. This does not exist now. The folks that get the juice are the ones who make the effort to get out and attend events and camps. In my opinion, any time an organization tolerates dojo membership in which the Chief Instructor and his seniors students do not actively participate in this two way vertical relationship with the seniors, that organization is failing in its mission. The dojo in question should be tossed out. In those cases in which there are financial issues which prevent dojo heads from training as they should, the organization should provide scholarship assistance as required. Dojos which are too small to hold their own events must network with other dojos regionally to support events collectively.

Individual members of the whole can do what they want. If they don't train, they don't test. Simple. But anyone who is a dojo head has set himself up as a teacher. If he does not constantly seek to better himself, he is guilty of fraud in my opinion. A functional organization will not permit this. Emphasis must be on the transmission of the skills to the widest possible number of folks not on growing the organization by accepting any Tom, Dick and Harry regardless of their commitment to participate.

7) Part of the function of the organization would be to expose their members to teachers from outside who have something to teach of value to Aikido practitioners. Guest instructors like Ushiro sensei appearing at an Aikido Camp should be common practice rather than an exceptional occurrence. O-Sensei invited teachers to Hombu all the time. The deshi received all sorts of instruction from outside folks invited by the Founder to teach his students.

6) I do not think that setting up an organization that would function this way would be difficult at all. I strongly believe that this is the mechanism that is required in order for anything other than a small elite of self motivated folks to do Aikido of some quality.

However, I recognize that something like this would require a rethinking on the part of the folks currently at the top of the Aikido heap. Am I optimistic that this will occur? No. It would probably take certain people going off on their own and starting fresh. It might or might not be an accepted model from the standpoint of association with Japan... If association stands in the way of the transmission, then it needs to be dumped. I do believe that if anyone actually made a good start at this, they would be successful and their success would eventually force other groups to take notice. But maybe not... Notice that much of what I propose not only does not support the idea of promoting a particular "style" of doing Aikido but actually runs directly counter to such an idea. Many Aikido teachers derive their status and even their living from being large fish in a relatively small pond. I doubt if they would chuck away this advantage easily just so that their Aikido could be better.

For some of this to happen, it has to be bottom up. The folks at the bottom and the middle must demand more from their teachers. This whole "loyalty" thing allows teachers who long ago stopped trying to keep students with great potential in thrall. It is the students themselves who need to stop cooperating in their own limitation. They need to seek out the training they know they need and they need to not let anyone tell them who to train with or what to train in. If it looks like they will start losing students, the folks with the vested interests will change, if for no other reason. Right now they have no incentive to do so.

eyrie 02-26-2007 05:01 PM

Re: Baseline skillset

George S. Ledyard wrote: (Post 169904)
So what can and should be done to make some sort of transmission available to the majority rather than an elite minority?

Good post George. I think it merits discussion in a separate thread though.

ChrisMoses 02-26-2007 05:19 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
That was one of the most thoughtful posts on a way to really improve what's happening in Aikido that I've ever read. I can tell George, that you almost never think about this stuff... ;)

senshincenter 02-26-2007 05:33 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

Thanks for the passionate post. I am with you all the way, especially the "George" at the end that questions if it is possible the way things currently are. In other words, I'm feeling, using the beast to tame the beast ain't gonna happen.

So, what can folks do at the individual grass-roots level? Something really practical and immediately effective? Here's what we did: We offered as many hours as we can per week. Of course, here I'm referring to certain types of dojo and certain types of instructors - those that have access to most or all of the hours in a given day (via one reason or another). In my area, as far as I can tell, this is all of the Aikido schools - even most of the martial arts schools in our area. So, I'm thinking this is not so few of schools world-wide.

Of course, my desire for holding more hours originally came out of my greed for more hours to train in personally (note: I do not do the show and watch type of teaching common in every dojo I trained in up until now). So, though we are unable to hold most or all of the prime-time hours (business-wise), we still look to have a class wherever we can. As a result, we have, generally, a class at 6 a.m., a class at 9 a.m., a class at noon, a class at 4 p.m., and classes at 9/10 p.m. For the most part this schedule is maintained, or close to it, seven days a week.

As I said, this was a natural by-product of my own greed for training hours. As a consequence however, members started taking advantage of it - since they were able to more personalize their training week. Thus, because of the multiplicity of lives, no two folks have the same schedule. This in turn has led to most classes being attend by as few as one person to about an average of about four or six. Our most crowded class, currently (since it changes as the LEOs schedules change), is Sunday, when we might have a max of about 10 or more (only a few more) - if that, since a common Sunday attendance is, I would say, 6 to 9. In essence, because no one shows up at the same time, because no one has to, we are currently training in very small groups. This has turned out to be a wonderful byproduct of my own greed! As a result, as folks have already commented, improvements come fast.

So, this is my grass-roots suggestion: If one can, hold more classes, as many classes as you can. Your membership will naturally fan out, classes will reduce in the numbers attending, more attention can be given to what ails, improvements come faster, as the depth of those improvements also increases.

Now, all you got to do is deal with the withdrawal in those students that have grown up on the energy of the group, feeding off it for inspiration and dedication. It's a hard medicine for some folks, but it's good for them since inspiration and dedication should never come from without. New folks, that grow up in this other system of training never know the difference, and if anything, actually come to hate (current) seminars like they should at quite a young (training) age.


George S. Ledyard 02-26-2007 06:11 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
What I do in my own sphere of influence:

a) I host instructors from other martial arts at my own dojo. I have had one of Angier Sensei's former seniors, I've hosted Toby Threadgill Sensei; the Systema boys do callses at my place and we regularly attend their workshops (which, fortunately for us take place next door on the other side of the wall).

b) I have students who have substantial backgrounds in other arts teach classes. I have several folks who have sandan - yondan levels in karate. They do regular seminars on striking.

c) My students and I go to other workshops together. The local koryu and aikijutsu folks all send me announcements of their events.

d) I encourage my students to do other training. This has resulted in some losses over the years because many do not really have time to train seriously in multiple arts and they move to the other art they've taken up. But for the folks that stay, the whole dojo benefits from the skill they bring back. I benefit by having students who are better in certain areas than I am. One of the reasons my sword work can keep getting better is that I have students who ar serious students of kenjutsu. These are real swordsmen not just Aikido folks with swords. I have to be able to wrk everything I do with these folks before I figure I get it.

e) I am trying to create opportunities for the senior teachers both within our organization and from outside to teach together rather than everyone just doing his own thing. I have a weapons seminar scheduled in which three of us Rokudans will teach together this summer. Not only should the attendees be able to gain from multiple perspectives but each student should be able to get much more individual feedback with three teachers working the group. My great hope is that the teachers will experince the different approaches we each take and go away with something for themselves as well.

f) We hold two Intensive Training seminars each year which focus on Randori and Weapons for seven hours a day for four days. The event is limited to around 14 - 16 people. It is intimate and intense but the folks go away with more feedback than they would typically get in a couple of yaers of normal camps and seminars. I have been experimenting with doing this for instructor level folks only on the theory that if I can reach someone who teaches, I am reaching 30 or 40 people by extension. I have peoplpe coming from all over the US and Canada for this event so I am having an effect far beyond my onw area or dojo. A few intrepid souls from other organizations have actually attended although I am not sure how my heretical ideas were received when they got home. I know one fellow came to both Intensives for several years religiously and then ended up quitting Aikido to do Systema because he couldn't find the kind of Aikido training he wanted. I felt bad that I was succesful in reaching him with my ideas only to have him get frustrated because there wasn't anywhere near him that trained the same way we do. In most cases though, I think the ideas we put out there have continued to percolate far beyond my sphere of awareness. I had an e-mail recently from a woman who did the training a number of years ago. It had been difficult for her as it was radically different friom what she was used to. I had thought she didn't go away very satisfied but I got an e-mail from her just the other day and she has been telling folks how great it was and that they should try it out. So I guess you can never tell what kind of effect your efforts have, you just have to put it out there.

There are lots of things we can all do which do not impinge on the prerogatives of the folks that run our organizations. We should all do what we can... I think that, as I said in my previous post, if the folks out there start to inititiate various things on their own without waiting for others to doit and withoutr asking for permission, the people at the top will respond. I have noticed that there is a tendency for ideas to be dismissed by folks and then later turn up again as "their ideas". The person that put it out there first will never get credit but things get moving nevertheless.

George S. Ledyard 02-26-2007 06:21 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

Christian Moses wrote: (Post 169910)
That was one of the most thoughtful posts on a way to really improve what's happening in Aikido that I've ever read. I can tell George, that you almost never think about this stuff... ;)

It's good thing my partner Genie understands... She hears this stuff way more than anyone should be asked to. I actually wake up dreaming about this stuff sometimes. That's when I know it's time to pick up a good science fiction book.

All my friends are in on the joke that I am another Blues Brother on "a mission from God". A little obsessive you think?

Aikibu 02-26-2007 06:45 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Thank you Sensei Ledyard for your posts. You nailed it perfectly and you are singing to the choir. :)

IMO effective "Transmission" can take place on any level with any "size" class as long as there is a solid organizational structure to nurture and support it.

William Hazen

ChrisMoses 02-26-2007 08:25 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

George S. Ledyard wrote: (Post 169919)
All my friends are in on the joke that I am another Blues Brother on "a mission from God". A little obsessive you think?

Anybody good is a 'little' obsessive. I just got back from Costa Mesa this weekend and at one point I thought the apartment building behind the local Mexican restaurant was going to start throwing things a me and Rich Elias to shut us up, it was well after midnight after all and there were 10 people in the parking lot of a closed restaurant doing scenes reminiscent of the "Ministry of Silly Walks" routine...

Say, "Hi" to Genie from me, she was always fun to have in my classes. :)

Kevin Leavitt 02-26-2007 11:56 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
My wife is a yoga practicioner. I am amazed at the lengths they go to train instructors. There are two paths it appears. Those that want to do yoga, and those that want to teach.

If you want to teach, and pony up the bucks, after a couple of years of training. You will get very intensive, high quality, individualized instruction desgined to transmit the body of knowledge of yoga.

It is intense and over a year long process for the core instruction to make you a basic instructor.

Furthermore, the army has a decent process of making instructors in much the same vein of intensity of training and transmission.

Bottomline, I have seen this model work well!

In reading George's post about stealing technique got me to thinking about this.

Maybe we are all due for a change in how we approach training and do away witth the old culture and get real about what we are teaching and inefficient, long modes of transmission for ones that are more effective?

I know there is much money involved. Also I think that done properly the whole quality issue is addressed as well. Most would say that it would go down as we teach more, faster.

I don't think so.

What you do have to be concerned with is the maturation process that is commonly associated with budo. There is a certain amount of growth on the path that must come. It is not all about technique!

Anyway, thoughts.

I have found that I would rather pay a couple of 100 bucks to a guy that has something to teach me one on one, with a couple of other guys, than to go to a large venue in which I am just another one of the huddled masses. Seems more expensive...but in the long run it is more economical I think.

Erik Calderon 02-27-2007 07:07 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
I love small class sizes. Especailly when there is only two people on the mat.

When I first opened my dojo, I would only get one or two people on the mat. There levels really jumped. Instructors from Japan would come and comment that the lowest level kyu's were doing techniques just as good as black belts in other schools.

I agree with you.

aikido shinkikan

George S. Ledyard 02-27-2007 08:30 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

Kevin Leavitt wrote: (Post 169950)
I have found that I would rather pay a couple of 100 bucks to a guy that has something to teach me one on one, with a couple of other guys, than to go to a large venue in which I am just another one of the huddled masses. Seems more expensive...but in the long run it is more economical I think.

Well, I don't know about economical, but it is sure effective. Musicians and dancers do this type of thing all the time through Master Classes and private instruction.

I remember when Billie Jean King was about the third or fourth ranked female in the world in tennis. She went off to Australia, got hold of the top coach in the world at the time and completely retooled her game so she could get to number one. She was already a top player but she needed that help to break through to the pinnacle. I am sure that it cost her a fortune... on the other hand, there's money in tennis so she got it back many times over... That ain't gonna happen in Aikido. But just think of the great personal satisfaction in getting good at an art that no one else really understands, takes up all your hard earned vacation time, and lets you blow your kid's college education money before they ever see it.

Chuck Clark 02-27-2007 09:14 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
I agree that private time with someone that has what you want and you have the tools to receive the transmission is important and very valuable. However, it's also very important to continue to train and "compete" with as many other quality people as possible. We all need a "feedback loop" in our training.

At a certain point, when we DO what we have been training in properly, it has been my experience that there is very little concious feedback. Usually, others have to tell us what happened.

As far as the Michi or Do aspect of budo is concerned, for myself at any rate, I have the responsibility to lead, teach, and provide the transmission process that I recieved to the best of my ability. If I do this properly, juniors then continue to provide very high quality problems for me to solve so that my own training continues to grow and learning never stops.

George, I especially liked your post #10. We're gonna have fun when we're neighbors...

Best regards,

MM 02-27-2007 09:27 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Ledyard sensei,
Post #6 is quite a bit to digest. :) It'll take me awhile to do that, but I found in a quick overview that everything you posted seemed like good, sound advice to me. Well worth thinking about.

I like the tier down approach because what the shihan is working on is most likely not going to be understood by beginners all that well. However, the top students would benefit greatly. Then, those students will work with the next tier, etc. And it would work in small groups, too, which is another benefit.

And I found myself nodding in agreement with your #4 about large seminars not having any benefit. I've found that smaller seminars have a more focused training environment and actually end up adding more zest/vigor/vim/etc to the attendees outlook and training. But doing away with the large seminars means more smaller seminars and that takes up more time. Is it something that the upper ranks and shihan can, or will, do? I really don't know.

I'll keep the information in my mind as I progress through my training and maybe one day I'll be in a position to help implement some of it. Until then, you've given some very good posts to digest and to think about for some time.


Talon 02-27-2007 09:40 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
I'm glad we have a small school of only 12 students and only about 6 to 9 show up now days at one time. I don't think I would like it too much if our school had 100 on the mat at one time. Then again it would be nice to toss around and be tossed around by different people, differnet body types. I also appreciate the openes of our sensei to other approaches and martial arts. You guys really made me realize it how good I have it...Thanks....

Budd 02-27-2007 10:06 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
A phrase that Chuck Clark Sensei just used grabbed my attention -- "the tools to receive the transmission". Since transmission exists between teacher and student and some very good points have been made on the attitudes of the teacher, in this ideal pedagogical model, what are the required attitudes and responsibilities of the student?

From my own perspective, it's been very helpful to have a background in other arts prior to starting aikido. I like to think that it's helped me begin to figure out how to observe and learn. I also believe that my improvement/advancement is my responsibility and I try not to wait until I have to be "told" something in order to figure out techniques, respect, etc. I also try to steal everything I can in terms of skill, technique, coordination from everyone I work with. I am not content to train without reflection/critical examination/solo work and assume that I will someday get "it".

But how do you train a new student and inform them of such responsibilities? In some dojo, a sempai will take new students under their wing, in others, the student is told to model all of their dojo behavior on the seniors. At what level is the student encouraged to make the training their own? At what level should they only "just do what they're told"?

I'm genuinely interested in thoughts on this topic.

Chuck Clark 02-27-2007 11:39 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

Budd Yuhasz wrote: (Post 170006)
A phrase that Chuck Clark Sensei just used grabbed my attention -- "the tools to receive the transmission". Since transmission exists between teacher and student and some very good points have been made on the attitudes of the teacher, in this ideal pedagogical model, what are the required attitudes and responsibilities of the student?

I'm genuinely interested in thoughts on this topic.

This actually, in my opinon, is (or should be) part of the beginning student's instruction. No one gets it the first time, but by the time they've been training for a year or so, it should have "jelled" into a set of tools for learning.

We not only need to learn how to perform, we need to learn how to monitor not only our performance but our intent, etc. We need to learn and understand the principles and the riai of waza. We need to know how to watch and really see what's happening when we observe our seniors and each other. We need to be able to use these tools to analyze movement, both in ourselves and in our partners. We need to develop skills and then the understanding of the connected relationship of uke and tori and to be able to predict at every level the effects that we want and the behaviors that produce those effects. It would be great if we all had what's called "hyper kinetic awareness"; but if we don't have it naturally we need to get these other tools honed to the point that we can operate like we're taking part in serious laboratory experiments in science, etc.

All of these tools should give us the ability, as my son Aaron calls it... "to bring your last lessons learned to this practice and hold ourselves accountable for actually doing what we think we want to do."

Or as Nishioka Tsuneo Sensei, Menkyo Kaiden of Shinto Muso Ryu says, "Keiko Shokon" (my poetic translation is: Think about and understand the past and then decide what you want to do now, be responsible for it and learn.) Good fortune cookie wisdom, but we all need the tools to achieve it, not just the desire.


ChrisMoses 02-27-2007 11:57 AM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Most of my taijutsu training has been relatively unstructured. That isn't to say that it wasn't or isn't specific or targeted, but it hasn't been based on a repeatable pattern of instruction. Where I train now doesn't accept rank beginners and everyone has at least some experience in one or more arts, most of us hold one or more yudansha ranks. One of the choices we as students will have to make if and when we transition into teachers is to continue that tradition or to devise a syllabus that provides a path from day one to year 10. I forget the specifics, but Toby Threadgill has talked about meeting Takamura Sensei the first time and being asked to do some ukemi to show that he already knew enough to be teachable. Takamura basically considered what he was teaching to be a Masters or PhD program rather than elementary school. I enjoy working with new people, so at some point I'll have to start thinking about that more. One of our guys is teaching a small group down in Olympia and is focusing almost exclusively on basic judo kihon, something which I am also very inclined to do myself. Judo seems to have a much better methodology for teaching ukemi and kuzushi. I can safely throw just about anybody in Osoto Gari but to really do kotegaeshi requires a bit more skill in ukemi before one gets to feel how it actually goes. Chuck, I'm wondering if you've found anything similar since, if my memory serves, the Jyushinkai also incorporates elements of Judo into your waza?

In stark contrast to my taijutsu experience, the sword line that I study follows a very specific training order. Everyone learns the kihon in the same order and it is repeated at the beginning of every class. Then the kata are all learned in a set order. When you can do a kata with reasonable proficiency, you learn the next one. As you look back over the kata, you find lessons that you may have missed earlier. Kata A which you learned 5 years ago becomes the uchitachi side of kata Z that you only just learned. Body skills that are repeated over and over in the soto no kata develop the muscles and understanding required to do more complicated movements in the uchi no kata. Further, the kata teach lessons of heiho in addition to specific movements. The first kata one learns, for example, starts with a seated draw to the left with an exaggerated twisting motion between the upper and lower body. This might seem like an odd way to introduce one to the kata, but every time you draw, you are reminded that this is your weakest point. Every class you feel how hard it is to turn-draw-cut to this direction until you don't just intellectually know that this is your weakest line of attack, you feel it intuitively. As an added bonus, it is very easy to measure a student's progress. My teacher has had some health issues over the years, so some of us have taught in his absence, sometimes for months at a time. When he returned, he simply needed to ask one of the junior students, "What kata are you up to?" to know where to pick up, and what they had learned since he saw them last. I know that some lines of Aikido attempt a similar level of structure, so I wonder how successful those who study these lines feel this is.

Chuck Clark 02-27-2007 12:38 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Chris, I'm a heretic in the minds of many mainstream aikido folks, so file this statement in an appropriate place...

Really good judo and really good aikido (aikibudo, same same) are the the same. There are folks that can knock/throw you down and hurt you in order to make the waza and then there are those folks (less of them to be sure) that you can feel their touch/connection, but it seems as though some force from somewhere else made you fall down/fly through the air or just plain "I don't remember what it felt like." It ain't magic. Lots of people try to describe it in many different ways, some better than others, in my experience (which means I understood them...).

I do use similar methods to Chiba Shushaku, Kano Jigoro, Tomiki Kenji, Miyake Tsunako, William W. Oneill, Ernie Cates, Karl Geis, Al Holtman etc. because they were my teachers or my teachers' teachers. Also some other influences are incorporated in my and Jiyushinkai's practice methods. Shinto Muso Ryu has influenced our Jiyushinkai method also.

The katageiko method (both tandoku and sotai kata renshu) are very powerful tools (similar to playing scales and chord progressions, etc. in music) are very important. But then its also very necessary to have a competitive randori system to complement the kata.

"Taking form from chaos" in a continuing flow of critical thinking and problem solving coming from creative, intutitive processes is the real test. Katageiko can also reach this but Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto ryu kata practice at it's highest levels of changing targets, directions, etc. without warning while still staying within the "form" is the closest thing I've seen to real buki randori. Shinto Muso ryu also does this when instigated by the sensei.

Kata is a form that, at high levels, evolves into what Ueshiba Morihei called Takemusu Aiki in my opinion. Kano wanted this in judo, but very few people used the katageiko method and made that journey. Chinese forms are the same, but again, many people won't take the time and frustration to use the katageiko method as the forge, anvil, hammer, and intent to make the real DOING of these practices possible. I think many people are just doing some level of imitation waza. Just because something hurts or makes someone fall down or ... the mistake of thinking that two people conspiring to make a technique work in the dojo is the real thing and good technique. For awhile yes, but that's not the real stuff.

Please excuse me for running on, but I (like George and others) am very passionate about this. I just turned sixty a couple of days ago and am ruminating a bit about this passion for this stuff for the past fifty-four years. There's only a couple of things I would really change if I could and my budo practice ain't one of em. It is what it is and I've learned more than I can talk about from my experiences. As is often said, this opinion is most likely worth what it cost you...

Best regards,

Brion Toss 02-27-2007 04:27 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Just to take an alternative view, I'd like to suggest that there is a real human need for mass bonding, something that large seminars can satisfy, and small classes can't. Through spectacle, if you will, the larger body of the community experiences/recognizes/ defines itself. This is no small thing. On the other hand, I completely agree that it is a lousy primary tool for the transmission of an art.
As for "technique stealing", I am sure that there is a reason that it came to be a standard expectation. Perhaps because the opposite of it is spoon-feeding, which is also not very effective. There must be a balance between the teacher's level of giving and the student's level of wanting.
I am reminded of something from Alexander's "A Pattern Language", regarding windows. The general perception of picture windows is that they create a vista that connects the viewer with the landscape, unimpeded by distracting panes and mullions. But Alexander contended that a large, single pane actually acts to separate the viewer from the landscape, by creating a definite in here/out there context. A multi-paned window, by contrast, has to be looked through; and the landscape must be drawn in. This requires attention and effort, so when we look, we see more clearly. In regards to Aikido, some of the best classes I've ever had were ones that imparted a point that I didn't get until years later. And interestingly, those same puzzled-out classes made it easier to get the full benefit of spoon-fed information.
So while I am in admiring agreement with Ledyard Sensei's proposals as to organizational structure, I think there is another aspect to teaching: how we get and keep the students' minds most completely engaged.

Chuck Clark 02-27-2007 04:51 PM

Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size

Brion Toss wrote: (Post 170050)
Just to take an alternative view, I'd like to suggest that there is a real human need for mass bonding, something that large seminars can satisfy, and small classes can't. ... I think there is another aspect to teaching: how we get and keep the students' minds most completely engaged.

I understand this reasoning, however, unless you're engaging in martial arts as a business, the student is responsible for keeping their own mind engaged in their practice.

I do think there's a certain responsability for a teacher that sees themself as an educator to present the subject matter in a way that does't put people to sleep, but it's still the student's responsibility to give the interest and attention necessary to stay connected.

Large taikai or seminars are good for taing part in history and making new connections with people from far away or getting "jazzed" and charged up, but the chances for learning are much better in small groups.

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